Thursday, 22 January 2009

Day of the Dumplings at North East China Family

North East China Family
302 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (map)
9629 9968


North East China Family

Although her law firm is only a block away from mine, it had been months since Miss A and I had managed to successfully schedule a lunch date without one of us having to cancel. So when we realised that we'd both be able to make it on Monday, Miss A wasn't about to let a little thing like scorching 35 degree heat stop us from trekking halfway across the city for good dumplings!

North East China Family

The eccentrically-but-presumably-accurately-named North East China Family restaurant has only been open for a short while, but lures the Flinders Lane punters in with promises of traditional dumplings. A plate of 15 dumplings costs $8, or $9 if you elect to have them pan-fried. Although this means that they're slightly more expensive per dumpling than those at Camy Shanghai Dumpling, Chinatown Dumpling and Shanghai Village (the holy trinity of cheap dirty dumpling places in the city, each of which I have visited more times than I care to remember), believe me when I tell you that NECF is an infinitely more pleasant experience!

North East China Family

Maybe I'm just becoming a fussy cantankerous wuss in my old age, but I do like the fact that the dumplings and complimentary tea here come served in china crockery rather than plastic crockery still dripping wet from the industrial strength dishwasher. The waitress that served us was an absolute sweetheart (unlike that nasty piece of work at Chinatown Dumpling who shoves plates of food at you with a look of utter contempt and loathing), the lofty interior was spic 'n span and at the entrance of the restaurant was a sign that read "Think Taste... We choose our ingredients for flavour and, where possible use organic produce". Pandering to Westerners in this trendier corner of the CBD? Well possibly, but when the dumplings are this good I don't mind in the least!

Pork and pickled cabbage dumplings

We started with a plate of steamed pork and pickled cabbage dumplings. They were delish - the casing was the perfect thickness and the pickled cabbage gave the dumplings a slightly sour tang that I really enjoyed. In the pork department, they also serve pork and (non-pickled) cabbage dumplings and pork and celery dumplings.

Pork and pickled cabbage dumpling

Miss A had already been here a few times before and insisted we order her favourite kind, the beef and onion dumplings pan-fried. Look how wonderfully crispy these babies were...

Beef and onion dumplings

These tasted good on the inside too, but I think I preferred the pork ones. Good chilli and soy vinegar too, mmmm. In addition to the meaty flavours mentioned above, NECF offers some bright green vegetarian special dumplings (which include carrot, celery and cabbage) and the interesting combination of leek, shrimp and egg - both of which I am keen to try on my next visit. On our way out, Miss A mentioned that her Chinese parents had given their tick of approval not only to the NECF dumplings, but also to their wontons in noodle soup.

On Monday evening I was chatting online to my friend CJ, freshly departed from Melbourne, and wrote "you're going to hate me but I just discovered a fantastic little chinese place in town that does wicked dumplings". "shut up shut up shut up, don't do that to me" was her distressed reply - there are apparently NO dumplings to speak of in Florida... :)

Beef and onion dumpling

20 comments:

Ali-K said...

Through fear of disappointment (and of the still-wet plastic plates) I haven't eaten dumplings since returning from a trip to China last year. I'll have to give North East China Family a shot.

Anna said...

Super expensive in comparison to our spoilt for choice Melbourne prices and I don't know where your friend is in Florida, but if the craving for dumplings eve becomes too much it's cheaper than a flight back to Melbourne!

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/features/lifestyle/sfl-sh21pdinepbsep21,0,5702063.story

Maria @ TheGourmetChallenge said...

Those beef and onion dumplings look very tempting. I havent had dumplings in ages. Great, now I'm craving dumplings. Great post by the way!

Wes said...

do they serve booze here also? Need a wine with dumplings

Hannah said...

This place looks like a fantastic alternative to Camy's if you're in the mood for a less crazy dumpling experience. Those pan fried dumplings look divine...
I don't know if you're on there yet, but you should check out UrbanSpoon www.urbanspoon.com/c/71/Melbourne-restaurants.html it's all the things I've been wanting in a user-generated restaurant review site. So good!

bunchesmcginty said...

Oh, I have been waiting to go here since I first saw it.

Although, I would definitely dig into both the vegetarian and the pork and pickled cabbage dumplings.

I love pickled cabbage!!!

claire said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! I heartily recommend that you all go and check it out.

Thanks for the Florida dumplings tip Anna, I'll be sure to pass it on to CJ!

Hi Wes, sorry can't remember whether or not they're licensed. Maybe give them a call? Even if they're not, there's a bottle-o just around the corner on Elizabeth Street so you could always grab a bottle of vino en route...

Hi Hannah! I take it from your plug of Urban Spoon that you're the Hannah who has written up several of their reviews?
I've checked out the Urban Spoon website for the odd recommendation in the past, but must admit that on the whole I tend to find such user-generated sites less reliable than favourite blogs, given the huge variation in tastes/attitudes/writing styles of the contributors to the larger site... I tend to rely more on people whose blogs and tastes I have grown to know and love (eg I know that if mellie from tummy rumbles likes a place, I almost certainly will too!).
That said, if you are Hannah the Urban Spoon reviewer then it looks as though our tastes are pretty similar (and that we must live just around the corner from each other)! :)
RIP Flavours of Lakhoum. And I'm very disappointed to read that Cheeky Monkey was crap, I liked the look of it and was planning on checking it out this weekend...

Yo bunches. Get into it! So worth it.

Hannah said...

Claire - yep, that's me... I got a bit obsessed with UrbanSpoon. The reasons you give is why I'm so impressed with UrbanSpoon. In the past I've been incredibly disappointed with user-generated review sites as you have no idea who the people are or what they like, whereas US is very transparent in what a voter/reviewer's taste is, so you can take or leave their opinion based on whether you think their taste correlates with yours. I think this sort of platform would be so useful for all sorts of reviews(not just restaraunts). It just needs more content, and more people to use it!

hannah said...

...and yes, I think we must live very close :)
btw, I went to Digable cafe the other day based on your review (I got SERIOUSLY excited to discover a good-sounding Richmond breakfast place I didn't know existed) It's actually changed hands/names and is now called Amsterdam St, it was AWESOME and they are apparently going to be opening on Sundays as of Feb!!!!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Mmmm love the closeup photos of the dumplings. Although it's made me crave these dumplings at 10:30am!

Hope you're keeping cool today and in air conditioning :)

claire said...

Sorry for the late reply hannah, but thanks for the Digable/Amsterdam St update! Will have to check it out soon...

Now now Lorraine, there is nothing wrong with craving dumplings at 10:30am... or is there? :)

Ali-K said...

NOTHING wrong with craving dumplings at 10.30 am: we ate them for breakfast nearly every day in China.

Anonymous said...

me and my workmates are addicted to this place!! we managed 124 dumplings between 6 of us!!
we even gamble in dumplings!!
dont know what they put in them but im hooked! im going tonight as it goes!!!

claire said...

124 dumplings between six of you. That's... terrifying. :)

Jetsettingjoyce (MEL: HOT OR NOT) said...

What did I miss here? I went last week and I can't recommend it. My dumpling-loving friend and I had the bright green vegetarian dumplings you mentioned and the pastry was a thick, gluey clump holding an unappetising mash of vegetables.

From what I can tell, the resto is popular because it serves cheap and huge serves of filling carbs. Which is fine, but as a dumpling maker and dumpling eater, I can't justifiably say that they serve good dumplings.

Jetsetting Joyce

Mellie said...

the past few times i've been here the dumplings have gone seriously downhill. I'd recommend you give shanghai village another go and cross this one off.

HenryBee said...

Just got back from this place, it seems to be a jump on the bandwagon type place now and I can see why - the dumplings were horrible! Casing was horrible, thick and gluggy with dry bits amongst it. That seems to be their specialty and it was bad and we tried the beef with egg gravy (equivallent to egg with chifon sauce we assumed) and it was the WORST we had ever tasted. Maybe it was good a year ago when you wrote this, but right now, this place and it's food absolutely sucks.

Anonymous said...

This place serves the best dumplings I have ever had! You can be assured to always leave satisfied!!

Angela said...

Ok, so I am regular goer to this place and though the dumpling are brilliant but
the service is absolutely shocking and check this out I just got a takeaway order for lunch and some dumplings were dropped in front of me, I continued waiting a good 10 mins and guess what when I got back to the office the broken cold dumplings that had obviously been on the floor were my takeaway. Ater 20 mins wait I just couldn't go back - I am afraid that was the last straw for me :) Angela

Angela said...

Ok, so I am regular goer to this place and though the dumpling are brilliant but
the service is absolutely shocking and check this out I just got a takeaway order for lunch and some dumplings were dropped in front of me, I continued waiting a good 10 mins and guess what when I got back to the office the broken cold dumplings that had obviously been on the floor were my takeaway. Ater 20 mins wait I just couldn't go back - I am afraid that was the last straw for me :) Angela